UCLA Extension Writers Program: Essential Beginnings in Nonfiction

Class begins Wednesday, but students will be able to access the course materials tomorrow.

Self has always loved teaching this particular class.

It’s short: only five weeks. And it’s on-line. Something about the on-line format makes this class feel very safe. She will not be sharing material from this class (or any class), but she just wants to say: if the thought of being in workshop with 14 other people who will possibly hate your work makes you tremble with anxiety, you can take this on-line class and you will still tremble in anxiety (Her deadlines are firm; your grades will suffer. Yes, she grades) but at least no one can actually see you tremble or break out in a sweat, because you’re on-line! So you can clutch your blankie or whatever as you read your classmates’ comments on your work. You can even have a breakdown. It will all feel so intimate. But the on-line format gives you an extra layer of security. No one will hear your voice squeak when you get emotional, no one will see your changing facial expressions, and no one can tell if you’re posting in your pajamas.

But the students pull something out of her. And she can pull something new out of them. Every single time.

Some (if not all) have day jobs. Some take the class from New York City, others from Beijing and Tokyo. She’s had students take the class from South Korea and from a US Army base in Berlin, even from a tent in Guatemala. It is pretty interesting to read the introductory bios:  I’m a swimmer. I’m a journalist. I write screenplays. I’m a retired Army General. I’m a stay-at-home Mom. I’m a lawyer.

She took a year off from teaching, so this is her first time to be with students since . . . well, since last year. She has really missed teaching this.

Stay tuned.

Stanford Spokes: A Summer 2020 Learning Project

One Summer. 6 Students. 6 Bikes. 10 States.

This summer, six Stanford students will spend three months biking from San Francisco to D.C., teaching hands-on educational workshops to local middle school and high school students along the way.

Read all about the project here.

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Stay tuned.

Anthropology of Food: Doreen G. Fernandez

Doreen G. Fernandez was self’s Freshman English professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her greatness was in her writing. She wrote beautifully about her subject: Philippine food, and its long history.

Recently, self began re-reading her book Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (Anvil Publishing, Philippines, 1994)

Her Process:

My teachers are all those who give me information about food: market vendors, street sellers, cooks, chefs, waiters, restaurant and carinderia owners, farmers, tricycle drivers, gardeners, fishermen, aficionados, nutritionists, readers of my columns, friends, food critics and historians, fellow researchers, authors of books (and cookbooks), writers of columns, food anthropologists — everyone who eats and cares.

— Doreen G. Fernandez, 13 June 1994


For self, the biggest, most interesting stop in her very brief late December visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico was the Farmer’s Market. It was bitter cold, snow lined the tracks of the railyard just adjacent, and inside a vast warehouse were smells, the indescribable smells of chili, pine, roasted coffee. Oh, heaven.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Preparing, OSSW Day One

Drove up to Mendocino, which as the crow flies is only 200 miles from Redwood City, but always takes self at least FIVE HOURS.

On the way, she stopped by Yorkville Market and had lunch:

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And then she mulled over the writing exercises she should start tomorrow with.

Should she have the students practice writing one very, very, very long, run-on sentence? With points to whoever can come up with the most run-on sentence?

Or, for fun, should she have them write a piece that’s all bad grammar and deliberately wrong spelling? Hamberder, anyone? Smocking guns?

Should she have them write a piece that’s all dialogue?

Should she ask them to capture every nuance of a piece of reality . . . in one sentence?

Should she have them practice writing a conversation that grows from an association of ideas (like a Harold Pinter play?)

Should she have them practice delaying the outcome for as long as possible?

She can’t decide. She’ll have to sleep on it.

BTW, this is one of the plays being presented by the Mendocino Theatre Company in 2019:

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Mendocino Theatre Company, 2019 Season

Stay tuned.

CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD, Vol. 1

For the workshop this weekend, re-reading some old stories to show different ways of writing memoir. In particular, thinking of a story called Lenox Hill, December 1991, which Jessica Hagedorn included in the anthology Charlie Chan is Dead.

When Jessica contacted self to solicit a piece, self had nothing, nothing, nothing.

Her sister had died just the month before. She did keep a diary, though.

The diary became the story. The first story in what later become a cycle of grief stories: Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press)

For a while, a course called Ethics in Medicine, taught at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, included the story in their syllabus.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Some of Self’s Publications, For Students Who Ask

Black and White 2

Cee Neuner’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is BLACK AND WHITE.

Self did an earlier post for this challenge, but today she was cleaning closets. And she pulled out these two lovely objects, which are feather dusters. And she thought huh and what if — ?

So she brought the feather dusters to the light and started taking pictures.

Voila! Black and White 2! Even though the feathers are more Black and Grey!

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Tuesday, 29 January 2019

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Since she is preparing to teach a class at the Mendocino Art Center called One Story, Six Ways, she might ask her students to look at this set of photos for one of the exercises.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Teaching ONE STORY, SIX WAYS at Mendocino Art Center (Feb. 8 – 10, 2019)

A deep examination of process.

A workshop that is as much about reflection as it is about writing.

A workshop about doing it over. And over. Until you get it right.

ONE STORY, SIX WAYS: Feb. 8 – 10, 2019

Instructor: Marianne Villanueva

Mendocino Art Center

42500 Little Lake Street

Mendocino, CA

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Black and White: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Must be on a roll! Participated in two Fun Foto Challenges in one week!

The theme of this one is BLACK AND WHITE. Self took these pictures just a few minutes ago. Thanks to Cee Neuner for the always-wonderful prompts!

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Self is teaching a three-day writing workshop in Mendocino in February. Here are some of the materials from the last time she taught this class, in 2016:

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Variations on a Theme 3: Mendocino

Self has arrived. She even managed to secure rock star parking right in front of the Mendocino Art Center! She’s teaching a weekend workshop on Landscapes of the Mind.

Just south of Mendocino are the giant redwoods. Self pulled over to take a couple of shots for this year’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: VARIATIONS ON A THEME.

And there was this vine-draped house, just south of the Village of Mendocino. Greenery and redwoods, that’s what Mendocino is all about.

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Private residence, just south of Mendocino, CA

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Mid-Afternoon in the Redwood Forest near Mendocino, CA

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It’s been a while since self has experienced the majesty of a redwood forest. Thankful these made it through the Northern California Wildfires, last October.

There was hardly any traffic, until the last 10 miles or so. That’s where you get the heartstopping views, but the narrow twists and turns demand maximum concentration (plus she is annoyed by the tailgaters, SUVs and jeeps mostly).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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